[PAST EVENT] To See and to Tell a Revolution: On Going (and Not Going) to China in the Long Sixties
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In 1971, the first delegation of US scholars crossed the border from Hong Kong into the People’s Republic of China. They had been invited allegedly because they represented a “radical” organization—the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars (CCAS)—vehemently critical of US policies in Asia and of the dominant academic views on China. A second delegation followed in 1972, both groups met with Zhou Enlai and members of the “Gang of Four,” but dreams of a sustained relationship based on political sympathy were quashed by the Nixon rapprochement. Instead, the China trips created a rift within CCAS, as they shifted its priorities towards an almost exclusive focus on the PRC. But also, and perhaps more significantly, by going to China, CCAS delegates found themselves in the position of other “fellow travelers,” caught in the tension between the desire to understand politically Chinese socialism and the need to explain Chinese realities scholarly, between friendship and investigation. By analyzing the CCAS trips and comparing them with travels by European visitors, this paper questions the always unresolved connections between seeing and understanding, personal experience and scholarly authority, politics and knowledge production.
Sponsored by the W&M Department of History, the Reves Center for International Studies, and the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Program.